[18th Century Legal Memorandum concerning a Disputed “Indian Country” Land Grant in Colonial Pennsylvania].

The document concerns a dispute regarding the surveying of 3000 acres, part of a land grant from William Penn, and the clear title to that land


18th century legal memorandum, unsigned, prepared for one “Mr. Galloway” regarding a dispute over the title to 3000 acres of land purchased from Native Americans in the Province of Pennsylvania.

(This may be Joseph Galloway (1731–1803), the Second Continental Congress delegate who eventually became a fierce Loyalist. Galloway was also a lawyer —who studied law alongside William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin— and it would seem plausible he could be our “Mr. Galloway.”)

The document lays out the history of the original land grant from Pennsylvania Proprietor William Penn and the tract’s subsequent surveying by John Scull, one of the Proprietary’s commissioned Deputy Surveyors.

Scull was directed to survey the tract at the behest of Joseph Jacobs of Philadelphia acting on behalf of the land owners. These owners were Dr. Peter Sonmans of Philadelphia and the other heirs at law to his father’s, Arent Sonman’s, estate. At one time, the Sonmans family had the largest land holding in the colonial Province of East Jersey and had the right to 5000 acres in Pennsylvania.

According to the present memorandum, it appears that the surveyed 3000-acre tract erroneously included lands within “Indian Country:”

Jacobs by his written contract agreed to Locate and lay out the Aforesd. 3000 acres, upon Land then purchased of the Indians but either by mistake in himself, or the Surveyor [John Scull], it was surveyed a few miles within the Indian Country & Included in the late grand Indian purchase of 1760. [S]oon after the Survey was made it was Discovered that those Heirs from New Jersey who Claimed one full moiety of the whole Grant had not any Legal rights, but that the part which they claimed has since become the property of Charles & Timothy Hurst.

When Jacobs concluded that Dr. Sonmans and the other heirs of Arent Sonmans “had no real rights, he immediately resolved not to give up the return of survey untill he was Sufficiently satisfied for his Labour and expence in laying of it.” Subsequently, upon Jacob’s death, however, a Mr. Hooper “became possessed of the original Return of Survey, and is now about to purchase of the sd. Charles & Timothy Hurst all that part of the said original Grant…”

To further complicate the matter, the memorandum reports that the land surveyed by Jacobs “...has since been granted away, and laid out by the Proprietary Agents [of the Penn family] to Sundry people, some of whom is [sic] settled on the Land.”

A vexing question arose: does Hooper have legal right to the land and can he “...oust those in possession under Subsequent grants.” A manuscript demonstrating the often exceedingly entangled affairs of land settlement and property ownership in Colonial America.


Description: [18th Century Legal Memorandum concerning a Disputed “Indian Country” Land Grant in Colonial Pennsylvania].

[Likely Philadelphia, aft. 1766]. [1½]pp. Watermarked and laid paper. Bifolium; docketed on verso: “State of Mr. Hooper’s Case to Mr. Galloway.” Folds; lacking upper half of second leaf, apparently not affecting text; very good.

[3726412]

Price: $750.00